SKOPJE, Macedonia -- With acts of violence and retribution continuing in Kosovo, NATO's senior commander, Gen. Wesley Clark, said Tuesday that the allies should speed up the deployment of their troops to the Serbian province and suggested that more than the 50,000 peacekeepers originally planned might be needed.
NATO's force in Kosovo now includes 19,500 soldiers, and it is growing by 1,000 a day. But the NATO-led troops are still confronted with sporadic killings and worsening confrontations between ethnic Albanians and Serbs in cities and villages across Kosovo.Clark, who visited Macedonia on Tuesday with President Clinton, called upon the NATO allies to move more quickly to flood Kosovo with peacekeepers.
"I am calling on NATO governments to accelerate the arrival of the troops to the greatest possible extent," he said in an interview with Reuters. "There are not enough troops in there now."
Clark said there was "room for more," but he emphasized that the priority now was to send in the troops already promised.
The general's remarks Tuesday underscored the volatility that remains in Kosovo and the difficulty NATO is having controlling it.
While NATO troops have become increasingly visible in Kosovo's major cities, especially the capital, Pristina, many smaller, more remote villages racked by tensions between returning Albanian Kosovar refugees and the remaining Serbs have yet to see more than occasional patrols.
West European foreign and defense ministers got a first-hand look Wednesday at the gritty realities of postwar Kosovo, including a town still gripped by ethnic tension and the site of one of the worst alleged atrocities.
According to locals, several dozen ethnic Albanian men were herded into farm buildings near Velika Krusa in southwestern Kosovo and shot, then the buildings were set ablaze.
"This is appalling. I'm deeply distressed and moved by it," British Foreign Minister Robin Cook said while at the farm, where forensic experts are examining remains of what are believed to be massacre victims.
"They must have known what was coming, and then they were brutally shot through the doors," Cook said. "We hope they were all dead because they were then set on fire."
Also visiting Kosovo were the foreign ministers of France, Italy and Germany, along with the French and German defense ministers.
Meanwhile, ethnic Albanian refugees ignored warnings about land mines and were flooding back into the province at an alarming rate -- 207,000 in the past eight days alone, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
"This is a phenomenal rate -- absolutely staggering," said Rupert Colville, a UNHCR spokesman in Prizren.
UNHCR spokeswoman Paula Ghedini said in Pristina that supplying tents and plastic sheeting for temporary repairs was becoming a priority for aid convoys, especially those going to the western Kosovo towns of Pec and Djakovica.
The United Nations estimates that about 860,000 ethnic Albanians fled Kosovo or were expelled by Serb forces after NATO launched its bombing campaign March 24.
Refugees began to trickle back from camps in neighboring Macedonia, Albania and Montenegro after NATO peacekeepers started deploying June 12 and Serb forces began pulling out under the peace deal. That quickly turned into a flood, and dozens of civilians have died or been injured by land mines or unexploded bombs.
Though NATO has pledged to protect Serbs, who were only 10 percent of the prewar population of 2.1 million, tens of thousands have fled for fear of reprisals.
Scattered evidence of such reprisals have emerged in recent days despite NATO's efforts.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.